Thursday, March 1, 2012
Book Review of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Oxford World's Classics
Type of book: Regency England, navy, Portsmouth, 1800s, repressive, acting, Lover's Vows, rank, first cousin marriage
Year it was published: 1814
"Me!" cried Fanny..."Indeed you must excuse me. I could not act any thing if you were to give me the world. No, indeed, I cannot act."
At the age of ten, Fanny Price leaves the poverty of her Portsmouth home to be brought up among the family of her wealthy uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, in the chilly grandeur of Mansfield Park. There she accepts her lowly status, and gradually falls in love with her cousin Edmund. When the dazzling and sophisticated Henry and Mary Crawford arrive, Fanny watches as her cousins become embroiled in rivalry and sexual jealousy. SHe struggles to retain her independence in the face of the Crawfords' dangerous attractions, and when Henry turns his attentions to her, the drama really begins...
Fanny is a very empty character who parrots everything Edmund says instead of having her own opinion (aside from Henry and Edmund question.) There is an idea that you could compare the couple to Pygmalion and Galatea. Edmund is also an extremely conservative character who falls in love with Mary but then due to a scandal he can never be with her and he seems to resign himself to marrying Fanny. Throughout the whole book, he seems to have sisterly feelings towards her and not once does he have romantic feelings. For example, when Fanny is forced to stay at Portsmouth, Edmund barely writes to her, and if he does, all he talks about is Mary Crawford, while Henry visits her and the family and gives her pleasant memories. Henry and Mary Crawford, the brother and sister are much better and likable characters than Fanny and Edmund. They sparkle and aren't afraid of being independent.
Get education and don't become like Fanny.
There's plot in this book? Okay, it goes something like this. First it mentions how Fanny came to live with the Bertrams, then there's acting, then Sir Thomas returns and they had to abandon project, then comes the second volume, I think its one where Henry begins to court Fanny and where the sisters leave for London and abandon the house. Then Fanny is forced to go back to Portsmouth because she rejected Henry and stays there until the very end. Its written in third person narrative from Fanny's point of view, although once in a while we get point of view from other characters. For me personally, there's something boring and dull about this book and about Fanny herself.
Jane Austen was born on December 16th, 1775, in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, where her father was rector. She was the seventh child in a boisterous family of six boys and two girls. Reading and playacting were favorite family pastimes, and Austen began writing as a young girl. Her Juvenilia, writen between 1787 and 1795, survive in three notebooks and include Lady Susan, a short novel-in-letters. In 1796 she completed another epistolary novel called Elinor and Marianne, later revised to become Sense and Senbility. In 1797 she finished the first version of Pride and Prejudice, called "First Impressions". Northanger Abbey, the last of the early novels, was written in 1798 or 1799 as "Susan."
Until 1801, when her father retired and the family moved to Bath, Austen enjoyed a comfortable life, mixing in the best society in the neighborhood, keeping a carriage and a pair of horses, and attending dances at the stately homes of the local gentry. Neither she nor her sister Cassandra married, but the reasons for this remain conjectural, as Cassandra burned or censored Austen's surviving letters after her death. The eight years following the move from Steventon were evidently unsettled and unhappy ones. The Watsons, her only writing from this period, was never completed. But from 1809, when settled again in her beloved Hampshire, until her final illness in 1817, she lived a productive life in a pleasant cottage in Chawton provided by her wealthy brother Edward.
In 1811 Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously: the title page stated only that it was "by a lady." Immediately successful, this first novel was followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813 and Mansfield Park in 1814. Emma, written between 1814 and 1815, was "respectfully deidcated" at royal command to George IV. In 1816, already in declining health, Austen wrote Persuasion and revised "Susan" into Northanger Abbey. Her last work, Sandition, was left unfinished at her death on July 18th, 1817. Austen's identity as an author was announced to the world posthumously by her favorite brother, Henry, who supervised the publication of Northanger Abbery and Persuasion in 1818.
Although my opinion of Evelina has changed from 2009, apparently Mansfield Park opinion hasn't changed. I still remember how I skipped whole paragraphs and would read first sentences only just to get the sense of the story. I thought that since four years has passed, this book wasn't as bad as I remembered, but re-reading it, it was a lot worse than I had anticipated it. Fanny is a very empty and repressed character who literally has no opinion of her own. I also thought there was a war between Fanny and trying to make the story interesting. I wished that she could have married Henry instead of Edmund. Fanny enjoys being miserable and besides emotions she literally has no thoughts. There are people who enjoy this novel, (someone please explain why,) but I'm not one of them. This is a novel that you either hate it or love it. When I had Jane Austen class where we had to finish the novel in one and a half weeks, (at one point reading a volume in two days!) one of the students mentioned there was something creepy about it, and proceeded to compare Fanny and Edmund to Lady Bertram and Sir Bertram. I think towards the end Austen herself got sick of writing this novel and simply rushed through the last chapter.
0 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)